ALBANY -– Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday proposed legislation to restrict the power of the Legislature in the upcoming, once-a-decade redistricting process to re-draw congressional and state legislative district boundaries.
The Cuomo plan calls for creation of a panel –- whose membership "reflects the state’s geographic, racial, ethnic and gender diversity" -– with responsibility to create new boundary lines based on the 2010 U.S. Census. The panel would be selected by the governor and legislative leaders.
In the past, the Legislature -– which means the Democrats who control the Assembly and Republicans who run the Senate –- devise their own district lines, as well as those for members of Congress. Governors still have a say by either approving or vetoing the lines.
Besides some advocacy that voiced backing, the first legislative group to rush today to support Cuomo was the Senate Democrats -– who will not oversee the reapportionment process in the 62-member chamber since they lost control in last November’s elections after two brief years in power. Democrats fear Senate Republicans will use redistricting to try to bolster their narrow, 32-30 margin of control.
Members of the redistricting panel would have to be at least four years removed from being a member of the Legislature or Congress. Employees of the Legislature and executive chamber, as well as party officials and lobbyists, would be barred from serving.
The panel would present its lines to the Legislature, which could offer no amendments until a third try by the commission.
New district lines do not kick in until the 2012 elections.
-- Tom Precious